Confession of Faith (1617) - Article XXI
Of Christian baptism we confess:
That the same is a divine, evangelical transaction, practice and ordinance, which was first commenced by the man of God, John the Baptist, by the counsel and will of God, and was received by the worthy Son of God, Christ Jesus, who humbled Himself as a true example, and to whom the aforesaid John led and pointed with his doctrine and baptism, as being the true Baptizer with the Holy Ghost and with fire. He proceeded and came from God with full power in heaven and earth, and sent out His apostles, commanding them to preach the Gospel to all nations, and to baptize all true hearers and believers of it, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and to teach them, before and after baptism, to observe all things which He had commanded them.
This the apostles of Christ, as obedient ministers of God, practiced according to this manner, beginning at Jerusalem, and preaching the Gospel in every country. And all who heard, believed and gladly received this heavenly doctrine were made disciples and followers, and were baptized with water, in the name of the trauma God, and thus entered into covenant with Christ, to observe whatsoever He had commanded them.
And inasmuch as the doctrines and commandments of Christ are not instituted for a certain time, but are commanded to be kept until the appearing of Jesus Christ from heaven; and as He will continue with His Spirit to the end of the world with His followers; therefore all believers and followers of Christ are bound in no wise, to alter or reject according to human opinions, these doctrines and commandments which God has comrnanded; but to practice and observe them constantly according to the form and institution of Christ, and the practice of His highly enlightened apostles; to preach: the Gospel to the people; and all who believe the same manifest repentance from sin and amendment of life, and submit to the will, of God, shall, by an unblamable minister ordained to this purpose, be baptized once with water, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
This outward baptism with water does not properly constitute the entrance to the kingdom of God, nor does the visible element of the water contain any power or holiness; neither is it able to give any grace and salvation; but, as the waters of Jordan and Siloam did not, properly speaking, heal leprosy and blindness, but only the power of God, to which they were herein subject and obedient, so also the water in baptism has no power to forgive our sins, and to cleanse the filthiness of our flesh, but is simply a token and proof of the grace and blood of Christ in the washing away of sin, which man, through faith and regeneration, by grace, has received, in the heart, before baptism, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, which is proclaimed in baptism; and without this internal baptism with the Holy Ghost and with fire, the external, visible, water baptism is as useless and vain as the seal on an empty letter.
Since, then, Christian baptism is of such a nature that it was ordained and commanded by Christ only upon faith, repentance, and reformation, and was practiced and taught by His high apostles in this and in no other wise; therefore we herewith reject, with good reason, the baptism of unintelligent, speechless infants, which we regard as a human institution, etc.* which ought justly to be rooted out and rejected. The principal originators of the same found this their infant baptism upon the fall of Adam, saying that thereby all men are born and placed into the world in an unsaved and condemned state, and that by the power of water baptism they are translated and changed from this unsaved and condemned state into a saved and God-pleasing condition; thus binding not only the salvation and condemnation of infants, but also the saving grace, death, and atonement of Christ to the willingness or unwillingness of man, and the weak element of water; so that when an infant is baptized it is instantly saved, and when this is neglected, it dies condemned.
Who that fears God can in any wise accept with a good conscience this human infant baptism, instead of the ordinance of God, since in the whole New Testament not the least is commanded or written concerning it, either by Christ or by His apostles.
The pedobaptists themselves plainly confess, that in the sending forth of the apostles into the whole world by Christ, to teach and baptize, infant baptism is not commanded, nor comprehended in these passages; neither is there any advocate of the same able to point out in the word of God the author and first foundation of infant baptism (though every divine ordinance has its beginning where it was first commanded by God)-how then shall this fabric of infant baptism, of which no foundation can be found, stand in the sight of God?
Infant baptism is in fact nothing less than a contemning and trampling under foot of the true baptism of Christ, militating in many respects against it; since Christ has attached to baptism the doctrine of the Gospel, faith and repentance, as a seal and token of the same.
And, as infant baptism does not accord with, but militates against the baptism of Christ, even so does it not agree with the circumcision of the Jews, which was not commanded to children but to adults, namely, that on the eighth day, every male child among them should be circumcised, on pain of being cut off. But it is not so with Christ, concerning which no command is given to the parents, much less to any one else, to baptize their children, or to have them baptized. But baptism is an ordinance of Christ, similar in part to the Supper, which no one is commanded to cause to be administered to another, but which Christian ordinance each must desire and receive by his own faith, for which reason it does in no wise apply to new born infants.
And as unqualified as infants are to observe the Supper (in which every reasonable person will agree with us), even so unfit are they also to receive Christian baptism. And, as infant baptism, for want of testimony from the divine Scriptures, is demonstrated only by arguments and uncertain conclusions, so also, by such and similar conclusions, the Supper may be appropriated to infants, as was formerly done in the Roman church. And as we may by no means, on such human conclusion, admit infants to the Supper, just as little may we on these conclusions admit them to baptism; but in all this all of us who do not wish to be seduced and deceived must necessarily adhere to the doctrine of Christ and His apostles. But, as the Jews adhered unchangingly to the circumcision on the eighth day, without following in any wise their own opinion, even so should all Christians still much more adhere unalterably to the doctrine of Christ, and administer baptism only upon faith and repentance, as Christ has ordained.
But all Christians are commanded and in duty bound to walk before their children with a good example, and to bring them up in the fear of the Lord, by good teachings and instructions, without using on them baptism, the Supper, or any other ceremonies; since it is known that it is impossible for any one to unite another to the Lord, without his will and knowledge.
But as soon as men grow up and arrive at the years of discretion, it is found, that through their innate sinful nature they live after the flesh, and thereby fall from grace, to which they had been bought by the blood of Christ. Their souls then need the hearing of the word of God, whence proceed faith and regeneration, and, as a consequence thereof, Christian baptism; which by Christ has been appended to faith and regeneration, and may never be separated therefrom; and which is represented as a grave in which men are to bury their own actual sins which they have put off, and are thus to rise with Christ to newness of life, and walk after the Spirit.
And as no bath to wash off the filth of the body can be used on an unborn child, but the child must first be born; so Christian baptism, which is compared to the washing of newborn infants, can, according to the will of God, be given to none but those who are regenerated by faith, dead to sin, desire the same rise from the death of sin, and walk in newness of life, observing whatsoever Christ has commanded them.
Hence no one can be recognized as a brother or sister in the church of Christ, with whom any Christian ordinance may be practiced, unless they have previously, according to the word of God, received upon faith the Christian baptism here spoken of, which is the first ordinance and The reception into the Christian communion, by which we submit and obligate ourselves to actually observe all the commandments and ordinances of God. And as there is but one faith and one God, so there is only one Christian baptism, which, having been once received upon true faith, according to the institution of Christ, may not be repeated or renewed.
Of the baptism of John, and how he as a messenger and forerunner sent before Christ, preached the baptism of repentance, and pointed to Christ, read: "John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Mark 1:4; Matthew 3: 6,11).
"I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the ratchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire" (Luke 3:16; John 1:31).
How Christ Jesus commands His disciples to preach the Gospel, and to baptize only hearers and believers of it, and not unintelligent, ignorant children, read: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28:18-20).
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16).
How the apostles, pursuant to this high injunction, preached the Gospel, and baptized only the hearers, believers, and self-desiring recipients, read: "When they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized" (Acts 2:37, 38, 41).
"And the eunuch said, See, here is water; what cloth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him" (Acts 8:36-38).
How the apostles, according to this foundation, taught and baptized several households, after they had heard the word of God, had believed, had been filled with the Holy Ghost, ordained to the ministry of the saints, and regarded as believers, read: Acts 10:37; 16:15, 32; 1 Corinthians16:15; Acts 18:8.
How the apostles in their epistles described Christian baptism as a burying of sins into the death of Christ, a rising and walking in newness of life, a putting on of Christ, a washing of regeneration, a being baptized by one Spirit into one body, and the answer of a good conscience toward God, read: Romans 6:3; Colossians 2:12; Galatians 3: 27; Titus 3:5; 1 Corinthians 12:13; 1 Peter 3:21).
*Invented in the kingdom of Antichrist, says the writer. This is an expression of the belief of the papists, who attach forgiveness of sins and salvation to the external water of baptism.
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APA style: (1617). Confession of Faith (1617) - Article XXI. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/C6653.html/c6653_21.